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Conservation Innovation Grants - Awardees: Fiscal Year 2011

Below is a list of the fiscal year 2011 Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) awardees. The information includes the State(s) in which the project will be carried out, the total amount of NRCS funding provided, project title, and a brief project description.

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (AL, FL, GA, MS)


Accelerating and Sustaining Longleaf Conservation on Private Lands

The project will result in a number of benefits that will substantially increase the achievement of longleaf pine ecosystem restoration goals and objectives. Namely, this program will leverage private financing to increase the number of technical assistance providers on the ground and to establish a sustainable network of assistance providers that will advance private landowner stewardship initiatives that greatly benefit the Longleaf ecosystem. The network will provide a continuous loop of information from the field to policy makers and funders and back to the field at lessons, policies and investment strategies evolve based on progress on the ground.

Furthermore, the protocol for monitoring and evaluation will serve as a key foundational element to the long-term restoration and protection of the longleaf ecosystem. The protocol will serve as the long-term means by which progress of the restoration effort, at the parcel, landscape and regional scale, will be measured. A tool of this kind, and the knowledge developed to build it, has tremendous transferability to other large-scale restoration and protection initiatives that require significant involvement of private landowners. As such, it can be adapted to meet the needs of other ecosystems of similar scale.


Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture (AR, OK)


Resilience System Design and Management for Organic, Transitional, and Sustainable Vegetable Growers.

Our project will train organic, transitioning, and sustainable vegetable farmers in production systems design and techniques that will make their operations less dependent on off-farm inputs and, in the case of weed management, reduce labor costs. Production system design will focus on the key elements of organic bio-extensive models—cover crops, green fallow, and planned crop rotations—which have not been well-explored or demonstrated in the Midsouth. Crop rotations, winter cover crops, and green fallow (summer cover crops) nurture soil biology, improve fertility, control erosion, prevent nutrient leaching, provide mulch, attract beneficial insects and control pests, especially weeds. When incorporated into a production system, such as a bio-extensive model, the reduced-input, humus-management concept that organic agriculture is founded upon becomes evident. Compatible with these system design elements are supportive practices that contribute to farm self-sufficiency. We will also provide training on these techniques that include making and using compost, compost tea, plant-based foliar fertilizers, and biochar.


University of Tennessee (AR, LA, MO, MS, TN)


Precision Nitrogen Injection Using Integrated Optical Sensing and Variable Rate Technologies

This project will demonstrate to producers and other interested groups the procedures and benefits of utilizing these innovative precision technologies: optical sensing and variable-rate application, to manage spatial variability within individual fields of cotton. The goal of this project is to encourage producers’ adoption of these new precision N management technologies and systems on their farms to reduce N fertilizer consumption and potential N losses, improve cotton productivity, and thus improve water quality and grower profitability in the Mississippi River Basin.


SureHarvest (AZ, AR, CA, CO, FL, GA, ID, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, NJ, NY, NC, OR, PA, SC, TX, WA, WI)


Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops

The Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops (SISC) is a multi-stakeholder initiative to develop a system for measuring sustainable performance throughout the specialty crop supply chain. Renewal funding is requested to continue an unprecedented collaboration amongst the nation’s most influential grower organizations, NGOs and buyers of specialty crop products. The project is making progress toward providing a suite of outcomes-based metrics to enable operators at any point along the supply chain to benchmark, compare, and communicate their own performance in meeting sustainability goals.


Ecosystem Management Research Institute (CA, UT)


Development and Application of a Web-based Sagebrush Restoration Planning Tool Based on Ecological Sites and Climate-Adjusted Reference Conditions

First, development of the planning tool will provide new information in a readily available format. It will build from existing information contained in ecological site descriptions, but will provide a consistent description of optimal potential plant communities as reference information for each site and further make recommendations for adjusting native plant communities so that they will be resilient and sustainable under future predicted climate conditions. Each ecological site will be evaluated for its potential to provide sage-grouse habitat. The web-based accessibility of this information in a format readily usable by technical service providers, wildlife biologists, and interested producers will also be new. The project will provide demonstrations of the use of the planning tool to provide benefits to sage-grouse and sagebrush ecosystems.


National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (DE, MD, PA, VA, WV)


Using excess manure to generate farm income in the Chesapeake's phosphorous hot spots

This project will reduce excess land application of manure in four of the Chesapeake’s “phosphorus hot spots” by accelerating adoption of innovative manure-to-energy technologies and the creation of marketable fertilizer products that generate farm income. The Initiative will close the knowledge gap regarding viable manure-to-energy technologies, provide direct assistance to farmers and agricultural communities in identifying technologies that best meet their needs, and will facilitate grant funding and financing to design and implement four new manure-to-energy projects that are cost effective both at producing energy and reducing nutrient pollution to the Chesapeake Bay. The Initiative will be coordinated with state NRCS management teams and program specialists, investors, farmers, nongovernmental organizations, and academic institutions.


Maryland Association of Soil Conservation Districts, Inc (DE, MD)


Conservation Outreach to Non-English Speaking Poultry Growers

This project will provide critical information on CAFO, MAFO, CNMO, routine maintenance procedures of installed best management practices, related water quality information, and information on federal and state stewardship cost-share programs by translating it into Korean and Vietnamese. The Maryland Association of Soil Conservation Districts will partner with poultry experts with the University of Maryland Extension, Mid-Atlantic Farm Credit, Delmarva Poultry Industry and Korean and Vietnamese community leaders to select the publications, fact sheets and other appropriate material to be translated and mailed to Korean and Vietnamese growers.


AviHome, LLC (DE, GA, MD)


Commercial Demonstration of the Reduction of Ammonia(NH3) Production and other Environmental Benefits in Poultry Houses through use of a Plenum Flooring System

This project will demonstrate an innovative and highly effective flooring system for reducing ammonia emissions in chicken houses. Approximately 9 billion broilers (chickens raised for meat production) are raised in the United States (US) annually producing approximately 25 billion pounds of manure. Broiler house floors have several types of material that is used to absorb/ disperse the manure moisture. In the broiler houses ammonia is produced by a natural chemical reaction in the feces and released. High levels of ammonia could be detrimental to the environment, broiler health and human health. After many years of engineering and testing, special flooring has been developed by AviHome to replace the litter as the base of the floor to rear broilers.


Agricultural Drainage Management Coalition (IA, IL, IN)


Demonstrate and evaluate saturated buffers at the field scale to reduce nitrates and phosphorus from surface and subsurface field drainage systems

This project seeks to promote control structures with grass buffers along ditches, rivers, and any water impoundment to reduce nutrient transport and improve water quality, from field surfaces and subsurface tiles. This demonstration project will retofit existing buffers to develop criteria necessary for widespread adoption, as no such guidance currently exists. Finally, in addition to the traditional tools, the project will use non-conventional outreach methods that utilize farmer contact,  such as farm forums.


Iowa Soybean Association (IA, IL, IN)


Technology Transfer of Bioreactor Operations and Conservation Drainage Placement

The Iowa Soybean Association’s Environmental Programs and Services (ISA EPS) group proposes to partner with conservation drainage experts in the Upper Midwest to accelerate farmer awareness and implementation of denitrifying bioreactors and other conservation drainage systems. Drawing from the experiences of researchers who have developed the bioreactor programs in Illinois, Minnesota, and Iowa; this work will focus on refining operational recommendations for bioreactors to maximize their life expectancy and nitrate removal and to minimize the generation of possible environmentally undesirable byproducts during the denitrification process. Lessons learned about management of bioreactors from this CIG proposal will then be transferred to producers, watershed coordinators, NRCS personnel, and drainage contractors in the form of i) new interim EQIP standards in Illinois and Minnesota, ii) refinements to the current interim standard in Iowa, iii) a bioreactor management guide, iv) a conservation drainage tool, and v) informational meetings.


Environmental Defense Fund, Inc (IA, IL, MN, WI)


Right Practice, Right Place: Development and deployment of a conservation planning toolkit and improved incentive strategies to reduce nutrients in HUC 12 watersheds in the Upper Mississippi River Basin (UMRB)

The goal of the project is to bring an innovative approach to improving water quality by increasing the effectiveness and implementation of drainage water management and vegetative filter practices. Our project will bring to the table critical innovations to improve conservation outcomes through effective selection and placement of these priority practices and stronger, more diverse economic incentives for practice adoption. We will develop a suite of user-friendly analysis and modeling tools that will enable planners to design effective conservation scenarios and allow stakeholders to evaluate and optimize the environmental and economic impacts of alternative scenarios. These tools will allow NRCS and other agencies to map a new course for conservation across the UMRB that maximizes water quality improvements while maintaining or even enhancing agricultural productivity and net farm income to the extent possible.


Electric Power Research Institute, Inc (IL, IN, KY, OH, WV)


Pilot Test Interstate Water Quality Trading in the Ohio River Basin

This CIG funding request will enable project collaborators to test key technical, regulatory and economic components of the program by completing pilot interstate trades between farmers and industrial point sources. These will come from direct interactions with more than 150 farmers. It is anticipated that these WQT credits will come from new conservation practices on up to 20,000 acres yielding reductions of up to 45,000 lbs of total nitrogen and 15,000 lbs annually entering the Ohio River3. This CIG funding will leverage substantial USEPA and industry funding already committed to developing this market, and will provide the real-life learning necessary for states to approve a regional Water Quality Trading that would span across the Ohio River Basin. This would expand opportunities for agriculture and point sources to collectively achieve nutrient reduction targets in a cost-effective manner.


The American Chestnut Foundation (KY, OH, PA, VA, WV)


Use chestnut to establish forest plantings on reclaimed mine sites in Appalachia, develop an online trees database to store, share & track data, run workshops to evaluate mined sites for plantings

We will use a questionnaire to capture feedback from collaborators and landowners who participate in workshops and plantings to ensure they are applicable and useful. Volunteers will measure the percentage of surviving trees and the degree of uniformity in their growth rate and input this data into the Trees Database. Volunteers will monitor active trees to determine if they have sufficient resistance and American type and input this data into the Trees Database.


Walrus and Carpenter Oysters (MA, RI)


Harvesting Nuisance Macroalgae to Produce Organic Fertilizer and Mitigate the Effects of Eutrophication on Oyster Farming

The primary purpose of this project is to demonstrate an innovative approach to improving growing conditions for farmed oysters in the temperate lagoons along the coast of Rhode Island. This is to be accomplished at a pilot scale on my own oyster farm by removing nuisance macroalgae early in its life cycle in order to (1) reduce fouling on aquaculture gear, (2) reduce suspended organic detritus, (3) reduce incidents of low dissolved oxygen and (4) allow phytoplankton to bloom.


Cornell University (MI, NY, PA)


Demonstration and validation of vermicompost-based fertilizers and substrates in greenhouse production as an organic nutrient source that returns animal waste to plant production while reducing nutrient leaching to the environment

In this project will work with three commercial vegetable, herb, and ornamental transplant producers to determine if vermicompost-based fertility programs are effective at reducing nutrient runoff and determining factors necessary for success with vermicompost. The operations are diverse in terms of location (MI, NY, PA), crops produced, and environmental conditions. In cooperation with these producers we will determine baseline and final nutrient run-off data (year 1 and year 3), develop and test strategies for vermicompost-based fertility (year 2) and develop nutrient management plans. Outreach efforts will use the results from these diverse operations to aid organic and in-transition containerized plant producers to reduce nutrient loading while optimizing plant performance and yield.


Rodale Institute (MD, NC, PA)


Nutrient Management in Organic No-Till Systems

In this project, nitrogen-fixing cover crops will be used in combination with dry poultry litter and composted manures to optimize corn grain yield and quality. In addition, this project will monitor nitrogen budgets and weed shifts in the corn phase of the rotation as annual tillage is eliminated and fertilizer application are adjusted within the larger organic grain crop rotation.


Northwest Natural Resource Group (OR, WA)


Monitoring Environmental Benefits for Aggregated Small Forest Landowners

The primary beneficiaries of this project will be small tree farmers across the nation. This project will also assist other small landowner groups looking to measure and value their environmental services contributions in a more cost effective, accurate, and efficient manner. While carbon markets have had significant attention in recent year and much work has been done to measure and monetize the sequestration on forestlands, smaller growers (less than 1,000 acres) still have no real way to participate in these emerging markets and few incentives for adapting their management to sequester more carbon (existing aggregation protocols and current carbon prices represent too much risk for little return for smaller projects). This project is designed to address that need by developing scientifically rigorous protocols for the monitoring of a variety of environmental services specifically for small and aggregated landowners. This will lead to increased access to carbon markets and other environmental services market and incentives programs and provide new decision making tools for both foresters and landowners to determine which variables to measure and at what scale and if measurement will be cost effective.


Auburn University (AL)


Native cane (Arundinaria gigantea) propagation and site restoration for wildlife and environmental management

This project will develop cane restoration and management demonstration site on private land ownerships in Alabama to communicate to natural resources professionals and landowners the environmental, cultural, aesthetic, and wildlife habitat values of canebrakes; further refine the technical aspects of cane restoration and management; develop sustainable harvest yields of cane as a specialty crop for Native American use; and to develop best management practices for using cane planting to enhance environmental quality on working agricultural lands.


University of Arkansas (AR)


Integration Soil, Crop and Pest Monitoring Using Spatial Technology on Arkansas Cotton Farms to Achieve Nutrient Loss reduction--in cooperation with Little River Ditches MRBI/CCPI

We expect to produce results that will provide evidence for growers, their service providers, and other conservation partners that show improved crop productivity – earlier maturing and higher yields – following integration of project BMPs. These practices and management technologies can enable producers to reduce nitrogen and phosphorous use without sacrificing cotton yield or quality.

• Results from environmental monitoring - edge-of-field water sampling, soil testing, and associated modeling efforts -- will provide baseline data for use as resource condition indicators in this MRB watershed. We expect to observe improved water quality as a result of decreased nutrient loss.

• Our demonstrations and associated outreach and support activities should help to lower barriers to adoption of site specific management technologies.

• We expect to provide increased technical support for outreach and education assistance to conservation partners including state and local NRCS professionals as well as Conservation District leaders involved in the Little River Ditches MRBI/CCPI Project contributing to the successful execution of that program.


Western United Dairymen (CA)


Representative groundwater monitoring for dairy best management practices

This project will provide innovative conservation practices by offering an alternative, cost effective approach to meeting regulatory requirements for groundwater monitoring by focusing monitoring efforts on a cluster of representative dairies with a range of characteristics similar to other dairies in the Central Valley. This project demonstrates innovation by evaluating existing management practices to determine which of those practices are protective of water quality. The project will identify BMPs and extrapolate to various dairy and soil types.


Fiscalini Farms, LP (CA)


Post Anaerobic Digester Aerobic Processing of Manure Solids at Fiscalini Farms

This project will develop information for a detailed technical, environmental and economic evaluation on the performance of an enclosed aerobic manure drying (EAMD) system as a new and innovative way of managing dairy manure year round. The project will demonstrate EAMD can improve air quality: decreasing the emissions of ammonia, carbon dioxide, methane and particulate matter from current traditional manure drying process; decease nitrous oxides, reactive organic gases, and particulate matter of 10 microns in diameter emissions from the equipment necessary for moving and processing manure.


Sustainable Conservation (CA)


Mokelumne Watershed Environmental Benefits Program

The project will support market-based investments in conservation practices that improve water availability, water quality, habitat viability, and carbon sequestration. This initial focus will establish a regional ecosystem market that directly addresses the most precious ecosystem service in the West - water. The program will define a quantitive metric to show how individual conservation actions that have habitat and climate change benefits relate to improved water quality and water availability during critical periods


Colorado State University (CO)


Enhancement of a National Air Quality Self-Assessment Tool (NAQSAT) for Livestock Producers

The purpose of the project is to further develop the recently completed NRCS tool (available at: that will aide NRCS staff in assisting producers with making decisions on where strategies to mitigate emissions of dust, odor, VOC, ammonia, and hydrogen sulfide will have the greatest impact within a livestock operation. Additionally, the tool will be enhanced to identify existing EQIP practice standards that will address the areas of concern identified by the tool.


New North Florida Cooperative Association, Inc. (FL)


Enhancing beginning, limited resource and socially disadvantage farmers success through the introduction of innovative conservation approaches and technologies

The goal of the proposed project is to take an innovative and comprehensive approach to developing a long-term solution to ensure proven environmental technology and food security in the small-scale farm industry by linking underserved farmers with USDA/NRCS conservation programs and alternative market opportunities. The project is intended to enhance the sustainability and profitability of small-scale farm operations integrating conservation technology transfer and improved marketing strategies. The project is expected to improve the knowledge and skills of small-scale, limited resource farmers in incorporating conservation and production technologies, as well as alternative marketing strategies, into existing farm operations. The project will demonstrate technologies and strategies that can easily and relatively inexpensively be adopted by small-scale producers. The target audience for the project is beginning, limited resource and socially disadvantaged farmers in north Florida. The project integrates proven conservation technologies, such as plasticulture and subsurface irrigation, and farm business and market development.


University of Georgia (GA)


Using solar as an alternative energy source needed to power small off-grid farm applications

This project aims at taking the use of solar a little further. This project will expand on the use of solar power to demonstrate a few systems in these cases as well as find answers to the feasibility of using these types of solar systems. The project will use solar systems in the following ways: cooling and water heating, pond aeration, water pumping in high head situations, livestock watering and drip irrigation.


Flint River Soil and Water Conservation District (GA)


Irrigation automation to improve the efficiency of water resource management in row crop production and maintain aquatic–based ecosystem services in the Lower Flint River Basin of Georgia

The primary ecological and technological benefits of the project will be the reduction in agricultural water use by up to 30% per demonstration site. However, these practices create economic and environmental benefits beyond water conservation. Following are the benefits we foresee resulting from this project per beneficiary: 1. farmers will benefit from optimized water application, enhanced crop production, lower pumping costs, and being empowered as ‘pro– active’ in water management; 2. stakeholders will benefit from the conservation of water resources, the sustenance of local farm economies, and the development of jobs and local economic resources; 3. the environment will benefit from increased water resources available to support habitat quality for wildlife, fish, mussels and other biota and the maintenance of adequate instream flows in the Basin.


Kunia Loa Ridge Farmlands, Inc (HI)


Small Farms Collaborative Conservation Planning and Practice Implementation

Project will present NRCS with an alternate method of producing integrated conservation plans for areas where there are numerous small farm plots. This will be accomplished through the production of a handbook in electronic format that NRCS will be able to review and modify if deemed necessary. This has the potential to reduce staff workloads and streamline the process for producers. This will also benefit local Conservation Districts that require approval of conservation plans by reducing their workloads. We will also be working with our local Conservation District, a project partner, to fine tune the process from their prospective. During the course of the project we will communicate and partner with the local conservation district on our annual training exercises. This will also be communicated through the local conservation district and to the media through press releases in an effort to reach producers who are not involved in the Coop.


University of Idaho (ID)


Demonstration and evaluation of alternative manure management techniques in Southern Idaho

This project will demonstrate , evaluate, and encourage the widespread adoption of the vacuum/scraper dairy manaure collection, proper composting, and land application via injection in Southern Idaho for mitigating odors and managing nutrients. Cost associated with these demonstrated manaure management techniques and currently used methods will be analyzed to provide economic information.


University of Idaho (ID)


Implementation of Biofiltration Technology

This project will demonstrate, evaluate and encourage the widespread adoption of biofiltration systems to document benefits and increase awareness among producers


Purdue University (IN)


Demonstrating Nitrogen Treatment Effectiveness through Innovative Bench Wetland Systems

The proposed project directly addresses three of the four Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI) objectives by reducing nutrient loading and enhancing wildlife and other ecosystem services, while maintaining agricultural productivity in Indiana, one of the 12 states of consideration. The primary program area addressed is Water Management, through demonstration of treatment effectiveness and efficiency of nitrogen contaminants in runoff or drainage water using innovative practices. In addition, by leveraging other on-going efforts, the proposed project will address many other topics within the MRBI initiative, including:

Wildlife Habitat Improvement - Demonstration of new technique for monitoring fish habitat

Vegetative Practices – Demonstration of the efficacy of reconnecting subsurface drainage to interflow for enhanced denitrification of shallow groundwater; Demonstration of how placement of appropriate perennial vegetation can bolster nutrient management;

Adaptive Management - Developing models to evaluate the effects of MRBI initiated systems of practices at watershed scales.

Program Outreach - Creating a MRBI demonstration and program outreach site


University of Kentucky Research Foundation (KY)


Compost bedded pack barn housing system for dairy manure storage/treatment

The purpose is to demonstrate a new BMP, compost bedded pack barns as a loose-housing and manure storage system for small dairy herds, on an operating farm to dairy producers, allied industry, non-agricultural groups, watershed residents, students and consumers. The demonstration will emphasize management strategies (building design, stocking rate, moisture, temperature, bedding material type and tillage methods) for successful performance. This will illustrate the potential of the BMP for reduced nutrient loading in an impaired watershed impacting water quality through export of the composted bedding as an organic fertilizer, reduced air emissions that improve quality of life of neighbors, and improved animal well-being, health, and longevity. Further, the herd health, performance and milk quality will be measured to assess the economic benefit to the dairy of the CBP barn.


GreenTrust Alliance, Inc (MD)


Application of Innovative Bioremediation Technology to N/P Removal Associated with Agricultural Operations, N/P Offset Generation and Ecosystem Services Market Trades

The proposed project combines an anaerobic digester with a predenitrification (PDNF) cell to reduce VS and N loads, which are subsequently nitrified in an innovative bioretention system. This system is a stacked bioretention system comprised of advanced media that removes P. Through recirculation pumping from a pre-nitrification (PRNF) cell to a post-nitrification (PONF) cell, N and VS loads are reduced to ensure that the system exceeds operational performance of a traditional RW system, without the typical clogging problems, while operating at a fraction of the energy cost. The advanced media within these cells virtually eliminates P. The resulting N is very low in ammonia, eliminating odors, while providing a source of nitrate-N suitable for fertilizer. This innovative combination of a PRNF and CAD with a modified RW system utilizes the best elements of traditional technologies/methods in a manner that increases performance efficiencies, reduces or eliminates traditional systemic problems, reduces required energy inputs and adds the benefit of decreased GHG emissions.


Maryland Department of Agriculture (MD)


Progressive Management Practices for Drainage Systems on the Eastern Shore of Maryland

The project will provide outreach, education, technical resources and implement restoration of sites for producers and landowners in target watersheds utilizing the most promising drainage technologies for nutrient and sediment reductions.  These sites will couple together some of the newer technologies such as water control structures and phosphorous filters, or hydromodification and offline wetlands to maximize nutrient and sediment education effectiveness.  We will work with landowners and farmers to adopt a new management options for drainage ditches, such as, increased buffer setbacks and utilization of the “weed wiper” instead of chemical spraying for vegetation management.  Implementation of innovative technologies proposed in this project is supported by Maryland’s Watershed Implementation Plan to address the Chesapeake Bay TMDL.  Improved knowledge of the nutrient transport process and education on newer drainage ditch management practices will assist landowners and producers in meeting Chesapeake Bay Program nutrient goals.


The Blackfoot Challenge, Inc (MT)


Blackfoot Irrigation Efficiency Project

The Blackfoot Irrigation Efficiency Project proposal seeks support to continue the evaluation of sprinkler irrigation systems which identify potential energy savings and more importantly what actions can be taken to conserve or use energy more efficiently within a given sprinkler irrigation system. Over the course of the Blackfoot Irrigation Efficiency Project, we expect to complete first time energy evaluations on 15 sprinkler irrigation systems. Based on evaluations completed to date, each evaluation identifies approximately 10,000 kWh for a total of 150,000 kWh of potential energy savings. We conservatively estimate that 40% of completed evaluations will lead to the implementation of recommended energy saving measures resulting in 60,000 kWh of energy conserved over the course of this project. The total amount of actual energy conserved will be measured through efficiency evaluations following implementation of recommended energy saving measures.


World Resources Institute(MS)


Application, enhancement, and evaluation of Nutrient Trading Tool (NTT) for two watersheds in the Mississippi River Basin.

The World Resources Institute (WRI) and our partner, Texas Institute for Applied Environmental Research (TIAER) seek $300,000 in federal grant matching funds to apply and enhance the Nutrient Trading Tool (NTT) in Mississippi as a field-level conservation assessment tool to improve the cost-effectiveness of investment in conservation practices. The project team will train producers in the use of NTT in order to enhance their ability to make resource conservation decisions. In addition, the Team will link NTT to the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model and the Farm Economic Model (FEM) to evaluate field-level and watershed-level environmental benefits and costs of conservation projects in Mississippi and assess the ability of the tool to improve the cost-effectiveness of federal and state conservation cost-share funding.


quasar energy group, llc (OH)


Anaerobic digester facility to process livestock waste and divert nutrients from the watershed

By demonstrating and verifying the environmental effectiveness of ADPlusLLX, quasar can encourage adoption of an innovative nutrient management solution and replicate this activity across the region to significantly impact the watershed by; reducing downstream nutrient loads while maintaining agricultural productivity, and enhancing wildlife and ecosystem services.As with any innovative technology, a key challenge to adoption involves building credibility and reducing risk in order to gain market acceptance of the technology. The primary purpose and goal of the proposed project is to demonstrate and verify the environmental effectiveness, utility, affordability and usability of LLX in the field to promote technology transfer across the watershed and nationally.


Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OK)


Northwest Oklahoma Ecosystem Crediting Opportunities (ECO-Bundle) Program

OACD will collaborate with the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, and NRCS to develop the concept of a wildlife credit as it applies to the Lesser Prairie Chicken (“LEPC”) habitat within the project area. This will entail creating protocols for defining, quantifying, and qualifying the credit, developing a credit verification system, and measuring the project’s effect on Oklahoma’s LEPC habitat and population. A successful crediting system will accurately account for the cost to landowners in implementing the required practices and the income sacrificed by forgoing the possibility of wind development. Through this process OACD and its partners will develop a Wildlife Credit Handbook. This tool will ensure that interested parties outside of OACD will also be capable of transferring the work resulting from this CIG to other regions of the state or the nation.


Ecotrust (OR)


Managing Forestland for Productivity and Environmental Health: Decision Support Tools for Producers

The proposed decision support platform is designed to allow forest producers to visualize, plan, and market their products and services and manage for multiple objectives such as carbon, habitat, tax credits, and timber. It will allow producers to input different pricing information and then generate financial information describing how the producers’ revenues could change over time under different pricing scenarios. Producers will be able to access the tool online and either upload specific stand-level inventory data from their land or enter species, age class, and harvest information specific to their property. An interactive interface will allow producers to adjust input data and change management scenarios to see how this affects the productivity of timber and ecosystem services and how it impacts their annual revenue.


Oregon State University (OR)


Implementation of an irrigation management program for energy conservation

The central purpose of the proposed project will be to promote wider adoption and use the IMO-Energy program to maximize the net economic returns by focusing on energy conservation in irrigated agriculture. To that end, the proposed project is designed to overcome the impediments to on-farm adoption and use of the program by: (i) establishing a prototype ‘mobile lab’ designed to minimize the on-farm effort required to implement the program; (ii) disseminating an adaptable, open-source version of the program to motivate and facilitate private investment in maintaining and improving upon the program (though a user-ready, general-purpose version will continue to be supported for all interested farms); (iii) establishing a high visibility record of IMO success as a tool for optimum irrigation management on large, high profile, high energy use collaborating farms that have already demonstrated an interest in managing irrigation to minimize energy costs; (iv) implementing a vigorous outreach/marketing effort to maximize both user and consultant interest in supporting the program for economic benefit.


The Freshwater Trust (OR)


Northwest Environmental Markets Initiative: Applying Proven Market Tools to Benefit Rural Communities and Farmers

Over the past several years and in part through previous investment from NRCS, project partners The Freshwater Trust (TFT) and Willamette Partnership have developed the fundamental elements of a working market, including transferable, NRCS and agency-recognized rules, tools, metrics and protocols. This project will enable partners to assemble elements into a complete, scalable and replicable package that can be rapidly applied and implemented in watersheds across the Pacific Northwest. Within the project period, the completed framework will be applied on-the-ground in two to three Oregon watersheds, generating millions in non-federal funds for producers voluntarily restoring riparian areas and demonstrating markets’ role in making conservation a profitable component of productive farms, forests, and ranches.


The Pennsylvania State University (PA)


Use of a Stackable Material Anaerobic Digester for Combined Heat and Power Generation, Manure Odor Reduction and Food Waste Energy Recovery

This project will collect information on the permitting requirements, construction cost, operational aspects of a dry digester including labor, equipment, and repairs, gain and record the experiences of operating digester; and evaluate product before and after digestion for soil amendment value, and changes in soil nutrition balance by soil testing before/after digestate use to measure potential reductions in water quality impact.


The Pennsylvania State University (PA)


Pennsylvania Small Farm Environmental Stewardship Program: Implementing conservation Practices on Small Farms and Using Environmental Stewardship as a Marketing Tool

This project will target traditionally underserved communities throughout PA with a major emphasis on farm operations in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. This includes new and beginning farmers and managers of small livestock and equine operations, which historically have very low participation in USDA conservation programs with a research base of 70% of PA woman managing horse operations.  PA Equine operations, which were previously unregulated, now fall under nutrient management regulations with increased attention to nutrient and sediment loss within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. New farmers and managers of small farms and equine operations need awareness of government programs and sources of assistance.


Sun Farm Oysters, LLC (RI)


Design, construction, evaluation and performance/design/construction document dissemination of hybrid (solar electric and wind) paddlewheel upweller

Increasing the number and productivity of aquaculture farms may very well depend upon the adoption of renewable energy technologies that will provide environmentally safe and reliable electrical power at remote locations. This project will demonstrate the viability of renewable energy power to provide reliable energy to critical needs in a marine environment, isolated from conventional supplemental utility energy. This approach greatly increases the potential for aquaculture to take place in places where upwelling was previously thought impractical or impossible.


South Dakota State University (SD)


Demonstrating Mob Grazing Impacts in the Northern Great Plains on Grazingland Efficiency, Botanical Composition, Soil Quality, and Ranch Economics

This project will demonstrate the influence of mob grazing on beef production, rangeland composition and productivity, soil and water quality, soil carbon sequestration, and ranch economics alongside typical rotational grazing systems currently used across Northern Great Plains Major Land Resource Areas (MLRA). Mob grazing (i.e. ultra-high stocking densities and shorter grazing duration), is a system that mimics the natural range bison system, achieves higher harvest efficiencies (30-40%) and increased animal production, while improving rangeland botanical composition, soil quality, and carbon and water footprints (Briske et al. 2008). Most mob grazing data and reports have been generated from warmer and wetter climes that have longer growing seasons than our demonstration areas.


University of Tennessee (TN)


Restoring imperiled grassland wildlife through grazing innovation in the eastern United States

This project will provide a comprehensive demonstration and education program for producers and improve understanding of the use of NWSG and prescribed fire on eastern grazing lands.The project will improve the understanding of interactive fire and grazing on grassland wildlife habitat and populations in the eastern US. It will also improve the information and technical guidance to producers and leaders within the agricultural community.


North Plains Groundwater Conservation District (TX)


The Texas High Plains Initiative for Strategic and Innovative Irrigation Management and Conservatio

The purpose of this initiative is to demonstrate strategic irrigation and crop system management technologies and practices which will result not only in water savings across the region but also best practices that are applicable nationwide to regions facing similar resource concerns. The primary objective is to quantify water savings that can be realized from strategic irrigation management.


Eastern Shore Resource Conservation and Development Council (VA)


On-farm demonstration of energy generation and phosphorus recycling as an alternative to land application of poultry litter on the Delmarva.

In partnership with Farm Pilot Project Coordination, Inc, (Farm Pilot) a non-profit organization that brings expertise and experience to animal waste to energy projects, the project will implement innovative production technologies to convert animal manure to electrical energy at a large broiler farm on the Delmarva Peninsula. The Delmarva is a strong poultry growing region and among the top 25% agricultural areas contributing nutrients to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The proposed project will demonstrate and quantify that significant nutrient reductions in the Bay watershed can be achieved in the conversion of raw poultry litter to meet on-farm energy needs. The project will also demonstrate that the ash byproduct with concentrated nutrient value can alternately be packaged and economically shipped to meet nutrient needs outside of the watershed.

The project proposes to install a 2,200 Tons/yr gasifier system and Organic Rankine Cycle generator on a broiler farm in Accomack County, Virginia. The unit will provide a demonstration of handling and management of poultry litter on an 11-house broiler operation, however, technology transfer is targeted to at least 800 producers in the Bay watershed.


Colville Confederated Tribes (WA)


Growing fuel from the sun

This project seeks to demonstrate the effectiveness of crop rotation sequencing, using canola in rotation with ceral crops, pastures and hay. This project will stimulate the development and adoption of an innovative conservation approach, while providing environmental enhancement and protection, and lead to the accelerated transfer of conservation practices and technologies within the Colville Confederated Tribes.


Washington State University (WA)


Mitigation of Air Emissions from Dairy Operations via adoption of select Multiple Best Management Practices (BMPs)

The proposed project will evaluate and demonstrate select proven (feed management; manure pH management; and manure removal management) BMPs for mitigating air emission from naturally ventilated free-stall barns. The outcome of this project is a suite of alternative BMPs that dairy operators could select from to meet their desired air emission mitigations from their respective operations: today and/or when (and if) the regulations come into effect.


Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System (WI)


Preserving Water Resources in Central Wisconsin

This project will improve the efficiency of water and energy use in the irrigation of vegetable crops in Central Wisconsin, develop mechanisms for monitoring groundwater depth, and improve nitrogen management and decrease leaching. This project addresses multiple NRCS CIG priorities including: Ecosystems Markets (bullet 2), Adapting Management for Conservation Effects (4) Energy (4), Nutrient Management (2 and 5), Priority Landscapes (4), Program Outreach and Technology Transfer (4), Sustainable and Organic Agriculture (3,4 and 9), and Specialty Crops (5)


University of Wisconsin-Platteville (WI)


Monitoring edge-of-field surface-water runoff: a three-state pilot project to promote and evaluate a simple, inexpensive, and reliable gauge

This proposed three-state project will test, demonstrate, and promote a promising new system to obtain low-cost, good-quality edge-of-field monitoring data in production agricultural settings within a three-state region that can be used in tiered efforts to develop local knowledge and expertise in water quality management. The University of Wisconsin-Platteville Pioneer Farm, in collaboration with UW-Platteville Engineering, has developed an innovative, low-cost monitoring system that will meet the criteria of interim Code 799 and enable widely-deployed, coordinated edge-of-field monitoring. By eliminating unnecessary features and assembling components in-house, the prototype monitoring system derives the majority of cost savings with minimal sacrifice in accuracy. Despite costing less than one third of conventional systems, features are included to reduce failure rate and maintenance costs, which include a tail-water sensor, backup stage sensors datalogger, power supply, and passive sampler, a flume heater (for accurate snowmelt monitoring), and a larger enclosure for ease of access and use.


West Virginia University (WV)


Flow-through Aquaponics to Improve Water Quality and Generate Income

This project will demonstrate the potential of aquaponics as a low-cost, low tech sustainable part of a diversified, aquaculture production model. Aquaponics is the integration of fish and plant culture where fish culture increases nutrient concentrations of irrigation water and plant culture uses those additional nutrients to produce food or ornamental plant crops.

Additional benefits include water quality improvement as effluent nutrient concentrations are reduced after passage through the aquaponics system. This project will demonstrate to fish farmers and others who generate large volumes of dilute nutrient enriched liquid waste how to generate additional income while reducing non-point source nutrients through aquaponics. We expect there to be measurable improvements in water quality of the effluent released from the fish farms with aquaponic systems. We will quantify changes in total suspended solids load, and the concentrations of ammonia, nitrate, nitrite, and phosphate before and after passage through the aquaponic system. We expect the cooperating farmers to produce and sell marketable crops thereby generating income that will offset the initial infrastructure costs and produce profits in later years.